Last Saturday, I attended the first on-site IT community event in ages. It was a conference with 200+ sessions (within two days), but as it was targeted primarily at graduating students and juniors, the organizers have combined it with the job fair. The attendance surpassed my most optimistic expectations - the place was packed like a can of sardines.

I wasn't really looking for an entry-level job ;D, but in order to pass the time during the breaks, I was circulating between the booths of hiring companies. To be honest, I haven't seen anything spectacular or creative; even the contests appeared dull and unimaginative. What has really caught my attention were the conversations between the students (potential candidates) and recruiters (potential employers). To put it bluntly: the former had completely no idea what to ask about ;)

Truth be told, I should not be surprised. I bet I was equally (or more!) clueless when I was their age (20 years ago, time flies). So my point is not about shaming them somehow. Nope. Actually, I have very noble intentions - I'd like to gather up and share (here) the questions today's me would suggest yesterday's me (20 years younger student) to ask at such an occasion.

I hope you'll find them useful. Or share them with someone who will.


Recruitment process

  1. Are you an engineer? If not: can I speak with an engineer? Is there a technical person in this booth?
  2. Are you recruiting for a particular project/team? (or to the company/pool) Can you tell me something more about that team/project?
  3. Does the recruitment process include meeting people from my future team? My future leader/manager?
  4. Is this a new role (why was it created?) or a replacement for someone who left/was fired?
  5. What will I be responsible for (explicitly)? (or: what is my future team responsible for?)

Team / Company

  1. Can you tell me something more about the recent accomplishments of your company? Or preferably - of the team that I'd join?
  2. Do you have a formal buddy/mentoring program(s)? Can you tell me its basics?
  3. Who will I report to? Who will evaluate my performance? Who will decide on my career progression/remuneration?
  4. What can you tell me about the 3-6-9 months-ahead plans for the team/company?
  5. (if facing an engineer) When was the last time when you've received valuable feedback? From whom? In what form? Was it a milestone? How actionable was that?

Engineering / Technology

  1. How frequently does my (future) team release their software?
  2. Who does the QA (testing)? Deployments? Monitoring? Support (incl. night-time pager duty)? In other words: how close is the team to the "you build it, you run it" paradigm?
  3. How is the work synchronized between the teams? (functional changes, technology/architecture, cross-cutting concerns)
  4. Who's responsible for the architecture (if applicable: at various levels)?
  5. How does this company/team tackle the technical debt? Can you give a specific example from the near past?

Top 3s

  1. What's the most important for me to succeed in this role (if you hire me)? Think about Top 3 Must-Haves.
  2. Top 3 most characteristics statements which depict this company (and/or its culture) well ...
  3. ... can you provide some examples that illustrate them in real life?
  4. Top 3 challenges I'd face in this team/organization that I may not be aware of at this point.
  5. (if facing an engineer) Top 3 things you like most about this company/job/team/project.

How do you like my set? Do you have any counter-proposals? Any confidential truth-revealer that breaks through every recruiter's perimeter? :) Please don't hesitate to share secrets of your trade ...

P.S. Wait, shouldn't I ask them about the steps in the recruitment process? About the budget for the role? About how many openings they have? Remote-ness level? Fruity Thursdays? Well, these are no-brainers - recruiters will attack you with that information (maybe except for the salary brackets ...) even if you don't ask for it. My intention was to mention the UNOBVIOUS, yet important questions.

P.S.S. I assume that once you read a particular question its purpose should become clear (why do I ask it? what do I want to learn by asking it?) - if it doesn't, write that in the comments below, please.